U.S. Department of State 2005 Trafficking in Persons Report - Mauritania

Mauritania (Tier 2)

Mauritania is a source and destination country for children trafficked for the purpose of forced labor. Some rural Mauritanian families, from Pulaar, Wolof, and related tribes, send their sons to work, study, and live with a marabout (religious master). They do so with full knowledge that their sons will spend an appreciable amount of time begging to meet the expenses of their education. Talibes, as these boys are locally known, sometimes beg in the streets for up to 12 or more hours a day. Marabouts can vary greatly; most marabouts provide comprehensive Koranic instruction to their charges, but others do little more than run networks of child beggars.

Girls are reportedly trafficked from the rural areas or neighboring Mali for forced domestic servitude in wealthy urban homes. Slavery-related practices, typically flowing from ancestral master-slave relationships, continue in isolated parts of the country where a barter economy exists. These practices are becoming more infrequent.

The Government of Mauritania does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government has made appreciable progress in combating trafficking, particularly in victim protection and in raising public awareness of new trafficking-related laws. To further its efforts to combat trafficking, the government should increase levels of protective services provided to talibes while demonstrating more aggressive enforcement of laws prohibiting forced labor.


The government made noticeable progress in furthering its anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts over the reporting period. Mauritania's Law Against Human Trafficking prohibits internal and external human trafficking practices for both sexual and labor exploitation. National laws and the constitution outlaw slavery. In July 2004, an updated labor code that includes a number of new provisions against forced labor passed into law. The government hosted two workshops for government officials and civil society representatives to publicize both the anti-trafficking law and new labor code. In late 2004, the government distributed in semi-urban and rural areas 4,000 audiocassettes that discuss these pieces of legislation. No trafficking-related cases were investigated or prosecuted during the year. The Ministry of Justice launched a website on which it began making records of all court cases publicly available.


The government greatly increased its efforts to provide victim protection services over the last year. In mid-2004, it opened six centers in Nouakchott that provided shelter, food, and limited medical care to 645 indigent people, the majority of whom were talibes. Additionally, in early 2005, the government began a multi-faceted program aimed at reducing the number of talibe beggars. Though still in the early stages, the government began providing talibes with basic medical care and a government-sponsored NGO began offering marabouts the resources and financial means to be able to focus on educating their charges. Once fully operational, the program will target 575 talibes. The government also demonstrated progress in developing economic and social programs to integrate former slaves into society. The Commission on Human Rights, the Fight Against Poverty, and Insertion (CDHLCPI) initiated three projects addressing this issue, with a specific focus on the regions where the majority of Black Moors (former slaves and the descendants of slaves) are concentrated. These projects include providing micro-credit financing and income-generating activities to 160,000 people; developing agricultural infrastructure and capabilities for rural populations; and alleviating poverty through locally designed and implemented projects to meet local needs. In 2004, IOM assisted the government in repatriating 139 South Asians found stranded in the desert of northeastern Mauritania, some without their passports. It remains unclear whether these individuals were victims of trafficking.


The government made limited efforts to prevent trafficking from occurring during the last year. The CDHLCPI hosted a roundtable on human rights topics, including the new labor code, the anti-trafficking law, women's and children's rights, and the rights of young girls working in large urban households. The country's single radio station broadcast the roundtable nationwide. In mid-2004, the government established an inter-ministerial working group on trafficking that includes director-level officials from the CDHLCPI and Ministries of Justice, Foreign Affairs, Interior, Labor, and Communications. This group convened biweekly meetings to discuss anti-trafficking efforts and progress.


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